Chris and I just finished spending four weeks away from our church. This was our sabbatical – a time where we ceased from doing any work. And work for us is shepherding the people God has placed in our lives. Any situation that occurred at our church was unknown to us. If there was a crisis, someone else took the lead. If there was a pastoral need, someone else had the meeting. If there was a fire alarm in the middle of the night, someone else got a phone call. (Glory.)
This was a first for us.
Chris and I were called into full-time vocational ministry together. We had served heavily in a volunteer role the moment we started dating and this lasted a couple of years until Chris received his first offer for a pastoral role. Because of the nature of our work, learning to rest and vacation well has been paramount.
We are blessed that our leaders at Life.Church encourage regular time off. Our role is not harder than someone else who has a job in a workplace outside the church. Many roles are can be challenging despite the environment. I just know that for us, as pastors and leaders, we have had to learn to navigate the ins and outs of serving the people of our church and staff.
To make the most of your time off, I’d like to share three things that we did and four things we learned:
What We Did
- Solitude. Chris went away alone on day 1 of our sabbatical. This was a game changer for him. Sometimes on vacations it can take a few days to relax and disconnect. But, when you are on a motorcycle riding through the mountains in Colorado, it’s not hard at all. (I stayed home with our sons and met up with him on day 7 in Colorado and we spent the next 8 days there.) If getting away alone does not work for your marriage or family, at least encourage some alone time even if it’s just for 3-4 hours each day for a period of time. I also found ways to get alone myself during our time off even when I was still home with our sons.
- Disconnect. Chris had no access to email or social media during this time. He removed it from his phone. He even downloaded a texting app for just our family to use so that he wouldn’t see other text messages arriving on his phone. I also chose to stay off social media during this time. And you know what? Neither of us cared one bit that we could not engage on it. We did not miss it AT ALL.
- Travel. Take a family trip, a staycation and a vacation during an extended time off. Family trips are with the kids – go someplace where they would enjoy. A staycation is just being at home – find your rhythm and enjoy it. Make sure you have a vacation with just your spouse. Make this a 7-day trip at least. Chris and I did not do a vacation during this time because as I said, our kids are older. So, our staycation was like a vacation as well. (However, we do vacation together every year – HIGHLY VALUABLE!)
What We Learned
- Leave things unplanned. We did not plan our entire 4 weeks away. Two of the weeks for Chris were spent away and two were at home. We felt like planning every bit of it would defeat the purpose of a sabbatical. But trust me, as a planner, I had plans and they were good! However, very few of them came to fruition. So, we encourage you not to plan every bit of yours either.
- Welcome boredom. Be okay with being bored. Now, I know you may not think you will get bored on your time off. Maybe you won’t. But just welcome it if you can. The biggest decision we had on any given day was whether we were going to eat out at a restaurant or eat at home. Tough life, huh?
- Take naps. When you get sleepy, sleep. We did this a lot – which many people saw on our oldest son’s Instagram account. Thank you, Noah.
- Rest deeply. Be still and sit with your Heavenly Father. Listen for his voice. Share your concerns but also just talk to him as you would your spouse or a friend. Even if you don’t sense Him revealing anything new or fresh to you, just stay there. Embrace the quiet.
So, can I describe what we received from this sabbatical in one word or one phrase? I’d say we had a deep soul rest. It was life giving and life rejuvenating. It’s hard to explain but if you’ve read 5 Gears by Jeremie Kubicek and Steve Cockram then you’ll understand this: we were in gear 1 for 98% of our sabbatical.
Chris and I were not in an unhealthy place at the beginning of this four weeks. Were we tired? Uh-huh. Were we ready to disconnect? Absolutely. Were we ready to rest? For sure. Were we excited to spend time in Colorado with our sons? Strong yes. But the reason we were not in dire need of this time to “fix” us was because of two things:
We spend time in God’s Word every morning
and we have learned to rest well.
We have made it a priority to begin our days in God’s Word. It is our guidebook, our source of all truth. It is strength for the soul, wisdom for the mind and food for the body. In addition to that, we honor the Sabbath each week. And when we do that, we find that we do not get to a place of burnout.
Wherever you are in your life, full-time vocational ministry or ministry in your own workplace, know that you must stay connected to the Vine through His Word and rest well if you want to be able to say…
I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7